AS warm-up matches go, Scotland Under-20s’ outing against Old Glory DC in Washington earlier this week didn’t tick many boxes ahead of kicking off their World Championship campaign against South Africa in Rosario, Argentina, on Tuesday afternoon.
Carl Hogg’s age-grade side cantered to victory by a 63-point margin against a ramshackle American outfit who have a long way to go until they come anywhere close to living up to their billing as a ‘professional’ rugby team.
But the one-sided nature of that contest won’t bother Tom Marshall much. With two tries on his first appearance wearing the thistle, the Newcastle Falcons prospect can look back on the occasion with justifiable satisfaction, and with high hopes that his performance will thrust him into the frontline for Scotland during the next month.
“He’s a real footballer, a converted centre, and he’s got real pace and power coming onto the ball – so that will be a really useful asset for us,” explained Hogg, when announcing Marshall as a wildcard pick at the start of May. “I think he brings something different to the back-row in that he’s got the ability to use his feet and use the ball to evade tacklers and get over the gain-line.”
The 19-year-old, who is a member of the ‘senior academy’ at the Falcons and came off the bench for the ‘A’ team in their Premiership Rugby Shield Final defeat to Saracens the weekend before flying out to the USA, qualifies for Scotland through his mother, Louise, who was born in Glasgow but moved to Newcastle when she was six.
“I had been to a few of the England [age-grade] things, but wasn’t really getting much of an opportunity and then this chance with Scotland came up,” explained Marshall, who also got game time last season whilst on loan to English National League 2 North side Tynedale. “I jumped at the chance and obviously I have been really lucky and have made the World Championship squad.
“My first contact with Scotland came about at under-18s level,” he added. “I wasn’t sure if I was going to get a contract with the Falcons when I was coming out of school, so my coach contacted the Scottish guys and things went from there.
“I was in the England wider squad during the Six Nations earlier this year but as soon as I found out there was a chance with Scotland, I jumped at it – I really wanted some game time. I came in played in and the development game against France and that was kind of my first involvement.”
Marshall can play right across the back-row but says he prefers No 8, which is a good thing because that is the position which appears to offer the best opportunity to get game time over the next three weeks.
Team captain Connor Boyle is a stick-on at openside flanker, while South African recruit Kwagga van Niekerk appears more suited to blindside than the base of the scrum.
And with Jack Mann – who wore the No 8 jersey twice during the Six Nations and came off the bench in the back-row in the other three games – already invalided out of the tournament, Marshall had already risen up the pecking order before his Washington heroics.